Kings XI Punjab vs. Rajasthan Royals, IPL: 5 Things We Learned
Almost exactly 16 years ago, a desert storm struck the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in the form of Sachin Tendulkar, who hit 143 and 134 runs against Australia in consecutive matches in the space of two days.
On Sunday, with no disrespect or undermining of Tendulkar's achievements, Sharjah witnessed the desert storm thrice in a single day.
The Kings XI Punjab may have beaten the Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets on the day by chasing down 192 runs with eight balls to spare, but such an academic description of the result would do grave injustice to the spectacles that transpired on the tiny oval.
It's hard to believe that this season of the Indian Premier League is just seven games old. Sunday's match could arguably be classified as the best so far. It was an absolute graveyard for bowlers, what with the ground's comparatively smaller dimensions and a slow pitch to add to that.
Nonetheless, fans of the format would have got more than what they would have anticipated. Here are five things we learned from the match.
Glenn Maxwell Is Well Worth the Million
He may have played just two matches so far, but Glenn Maxwell has done enough in the 88 deliveries he has faced to fully justify his million-dollar price tag.
Three days ago, he had amazed his fans and detractors alike by hitting a 43-ball 95 that helped Kings XI Punjab chase down 206 against Chennai Super Kings at Abu Dhabi. It was a once-in-a-lifetime innings, or so we thought.
However, Maxwell proved that lightning could strike twice as he scored an almost similar 45-ball 89 on Friday against Rajasthan, including eight fours and six maximums.
The knock was as colourful, innovative, explosive and entertaining as its predecessor. Maxwell has introduced to the world of IPL his own brand of cricket, which includes constant shuffling around the crease to confuse the bowler, more reverse hits and overhead scoops than ordinary cricket shots, and a ridiculously high strike-rate hovering around 200.
Almost every delivery that the 25-year-old Australian has hit so far has gone where he intended it to and with the timing that would embarrass a clockmaker.
With 184 runs in two games, Maxwell has already overshadowed his fellow countryman and Punjab team-mate Mitchell Johnson, who came at a slightly higher price tag. More importantly, unlike last season when he played just three games for Mumbai Indians for a similar price tag, he seems to have justified it fairly well this time.
Killer Miller Isn't to Be Forgotten
If Glenn Maxwell has been the one who set up the chases for Punjab, South African recruit David Miller has been the finisher. While the Australian has grabbed all the headlines, Miller has two unbeaten and quickfire half-centuries to his name as well.
Against Chennai, Miller played the supportive role alongside Maxwell, scoring a 37-ball 54. Against Rajasthan on Sunday, he walked in after Maxwell's dismissal with his team needing 66 off 37 balls.
The equation was to reduce to 37 required off the last two, and this was when "Killer Miller" flicked on his switch.
Medium-pacer Dhawal Kulkarni was carted for four sixes in as many directions in the penultimate over to all but win the game.
Miller popped out of relative obscurity last season when his unbeaten 101 off 38 balls, as reported by CricketCountry.com, helped Punjab chase down what looked like another imposing target of 191 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. That was and still remains the third-fastest century in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Sunday's ballistics of 51 not out off 19 deliveries has also made him the second-fastest half-centurion in the tournament. The way the 24-year-old is going, expect a few more records to be broken.
Punjab Are Brilliant Chasers, but Possibly a Two-Man Team
Punjab's two matches have proved that they are brilliant chasers. But there will come a time when they would have to bat first as well. This is when the ineffectiveness of their bowling attack and seemingly two-man batting line-up could get exposed.
While Punjab may have got maximum points so far, they would know that the wins are entirely down to two players: Glenn Maxwell and David Miller. Their bowling attack has leaked more than 190 runs in both the matches, while Maxwell and Miller have scored three-quarters of the runs required.
None of the other batsmen or bowlers have done much to prove that Punjab can win without the duo, who are obviously not going to be able to perform in all their matches.
Sanju Samson Needs to Be Fast-Tracked into Indian Team
While Glenn Maxwell was entertaining the crowd with his reverse hits, purists of the game would have hoped that the man squatted behind the stumps—Sanju Samson, the Rajasthan wicketkeeper-batsman—would not try to imbibe any of the shots.
Samson's breakthrough year was last season, when the then-18-year-old boy wowed one and all with his clean, orthodox striking. Having gained valuable international experience playing regularly for the Indian Under-19 team since the last IPL, Samson's confidence has only grown since then.
On Sunday, just two balls into his innings, the youngster dispatched a half-volley from Lakshmipathy Balaji, a bowler 13 years his senior, to the extra-cover fence with not the slightest hint of doubt in mind. Everything about the shot was textbook perfect: the shaping of the body, timing and placement. Watching that shot, it was clear that something special was in store.
Samson went on to score a half-century at a strike-rate of over 150 before succumbing to the urge of hitting everything in the death overs. But this was not before he had struck two other boundaries and four sixes, all oozing with his unique brand of aggressive yet traditional strokeplay.
The four sixes that he hit were a far cry from those from the blades of players such as Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers, but there was something so elegant about them that would have thoroughly delighted the romantics of the game.
Rajasthan skipper Shane Watson also got into the act with a slam-bang half-century off 29 balls of his own. But there was only one innings that stood out among the Royals. If this boy is kept out of the Indian senior team for long, there is only one loser.
Rajasthan Royals Have an Openers Dilemma
When the Royals innings began, with all-rounder Abhishek Nayar accompanying regular opener Ajinkya Rahane out into the middle, Rajasthan's tactics would have raised a few eyebrows.
When you've got a tested and successful opener in Shane Watson in your ranks, why experiment with someone who usually bats a little lower down the order? Watson only came in to bat at No. 4, which went completely against the golden rule of letting your best batsmen face the most deliveries.
However, Nayar went on to score a delightful 23-run cameo, which would warrant him a few more chances.
However, that still does not answer the question of whether Watson is being wasted at No 4. He still managed to score a half-century from that position, but the Royals would well know that he has scored much more than that from a higher position in the past.
The coming few games would perhaps give them more clarity as to what is their best line-up.